The MD thesis, a requirement at Yale since 1839, is a hallmark of the Yale curriculum. It is designed to develop critical judgment, habits of self-education, and the application of the scientific method to medicine. It also gives students a chance to work closely with faculty who are distinguished scientists, clinicians and scholars.
Many students start their thesis research in the summer after the first year. A large percentage of students choose to take a fifth year to continue their research project in more depth.
Students may choose basic laboratory projects or may investigate clinical, laboratory, environmental medicine, or medicine and the humanities. A hypothesis must be defined, experimental methods developed, and data gathered to prove or disprove the hypothesis.
Stipends are provided for summer and other short-term research periods. There also are many other one-year research fellowships available.
- Dissertations written jointly by two or more students are not acceptable. This does not mean that they may not work on related problems.
- Research involving human subjects must be approved by the Human Investigation Committee (HIC) of the School of Medicine. Applications and guidelines are available online or in the Human Research Protection Program (HRPP) Office at 55 College Street.
See Yale’s Thesis Digital Library for examples of MD theses from past medical students.
For more information about the thesis requirement, visit the
The thesis committee oversees all aspects of the medical student thesis program. This includes:
- Setting rules and regulations for the thesis requirement
- Establishing thesis deadlines
- Determining the guidelines and processes for the awarding of thesis honors and graduation prizes, and choosing the recipients
- Determining which students make oral presentations on Student Research Day
The thesis committee reviews the curriculum to make sure there is enough time for thesis research. It evaluates the participation and effectiveness of faculty mentors, assesses the quality of the student’s research experience, and makes stipend-supported research fellowships available.
Research Done Outside of Yale
Some students do research projects outside of Yale. The approval of an outside preceptor will be granted by the Office of Student Research upon receipt of a statement by a full-time Yale faculty member acting as sponsor, in whose area the research work will be done.
The faculty member is responsible for reviewing the progress of the thesis with the student, reviewing the written thesis and giving faculty approval. The same regulations concerning the dates of submission and review by the appropriate departmental committee apply to theses done outside of the medical school.